Ohio county rejects ban on utility-scale solar, but 10 counties retain it


Clark County, Ohio has rejected the ban of utility-scale renewable energy development as codified by Senate Bill 52, a 2021 law that prohibits the development of solar and wind power facilities greater than 50 MW of capacity. The bill does not place a ban on smaller residential rooftop or commercial solar facilities.

To date, there are no utility-scale solar or wind facilities in Clark County, but the rejection now opens the door for new development opportunities. Landowners in unincorporated areas of the county can lease or sell land for solar and wind development following the ban’s rejection.

The Clark County Commission unanimously voted to uphold landowners’ rights to host the development of clean energy resources. Six of the ten townships in Clark County sent in requests to uphold the ban.

Farmer and Clark County resident Bill Agile said, “I guess I’m struggling with why we want to cover up our farmland, which is one of our greatest resources,” he said. “There’s plenty of city areas. Old, poor, worn-out buildings that can be destroyed, knocked-down and cleaned-up.”

Agile’s suggestion of building solar resources on rooftops, brownfield sites, and other unused land is a popular model for preserving land use, often called distributed generation (DG). DG resources are hailed for their lighter effect on land use, greater ability to be resilient and responsive under extreme weather events, and higher efficiency due to less transmission infrastructure requirements.

Despite this, utility-scale wind and solar resources are considered an important part of the energy mix as the nation rapidly pursues decarbonizing the energy sector in the face of climate change. The rejection of the development ban was also seen as a property rights issue.

“One issue that I really continue to not be able to rectify to myself is property rights: taking away property rights for any legal use,” said Melanie Flax Wilt, commissioner of Clark County. “That’s the thing that I continue to narrow in on, that it concerns me to take away the choice of the homeowner.”

However, 10 counties in Ohio still have restrictions predicated by Senate Bill 52. The bill prohibits solar and wind facilities of 50 MW or more, as well as “economically significant” wind facilities ranging from 5 MW to 50 MW.

Ohio resident Larry Ricketts warned that the ban may be too prohibitive. “We have a choice right now, and in the next couple of years. We can accept the fact that solar and wind and these types of farms are the wave of the future,” he said. “All I’m saying is, be careful when you do a thing like this, that says you cannot do something and then handcuff yourself.”

In addition to distributed rooftop and brownfield site development, the practice of agrivoltaics, or co-locating solar facilities and agricultural production, can be an effective way to address land use concerns.

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